Presidential elections in Austria

In the report­ing peri­od, the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions of 25 April 2010 were the major issue dom­i­nat­ing domes­tic pol­i­tics and relat­ed debate. Apart from the incum­bent, Heinz Fis­ch­er, a Social Demo­c­rat run­ning as an inde­pen­dent can­di­date, Bar­bara Rosenkranz from the Free­dom Par­ty and Rudolf Gehring from a small par­ty called the Chris­t­ian Par­ty of Aus­tria (CPÖ) ran for the office. How­ev­er, giv­en Heinz Fischer’s pop­u­lar­i­ty, com­bined with the ide­o­log­i­cal affil­i­a­tion and com­par­a­tive­ly unglam­orous careers of his chal­lengers, there exist­ed no doubts that Fis­ch­er was going to win. Thus, the elec­tion cam­paign lacked any excite­ment. Nev­er­the­less, the per­son­al­i­ty of Bar­bara Rosenkranz and the gen­er­al atti­tude adopt­ed by the People’s Par­ty dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign caused some controversies.

The can­di­date of the far-right Free­dom Par­ty, Bar­bara Rosenkranz, was to put the pro­hi­bi­tion law ban­ning Nazi ide­ol­o­gy and penal­is­ing any attempt to glo­ri­fy or play down Nazi crimes in ques­tion.11Der Stan­dard, 3 March 2010; AustrianTimes.at: Rosenkranz ‘con­demns Nazi crimes’, 8 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.austriantimes.at/news/General_News/2010–03-08/21366/Rosenkranz_%27condemns_Nazi_crimes%27 (last access: 22 May 2010). This prompt­ed severe crit­i­cism and her eli­gi­bil­i­ty for the office of the pres­i­dent was chal­lenged. More­over, the pub­lish­er of Austria’s best-sell­ing tabloid Neue Kro­nen Zeitung, Hans Dic­hand, who had pre­vi­ous­ly announced his sup­port for Rosenkranz, now demand­ed that she should pub­licly denounce Nation­al Social­ism. Upon this, Rosenkranz signed an affi­davit say­ing she con­demned Nazi crimes and ide­ol­o­gy. In the end, Rosenkranz only got about 15 per­cent of the vote.

As for the People’s Par­ty, giv­en the afore­men­tioned pop­u­lar­i­ty of Heinz Fis­ch­er and the prospect of him being re-elect­ed in the end, the ÖVP did not nom­i­nate a can­di­date. At the same time, despite the con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing Rosenkranz, People’s Par­ty offi­cials refrained from endors­ing the can­di­da­cy of Heinz Fis­ch­er, who is a for­mer Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­lia­ment Speak­er and Min­is­ter. Instead, promi­nent ÖVP politi­cians such as the leader of the par­lia­men­tary group, Karl­heinz Kopf, open­ly declared that they would par­tic­i­pate in the elec­tions but only sub­mit a blank bal­lot.22Der Stan­dard, 29 March 2010. This was, of course, severe­ly crit­i­cised by the Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party.

The con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing the per­son­al­i­ty of Bar­bara Rosenkranz, the stance adopt­ed by the People’s Par­ty and the expec­ta­tion that Heinz Fis­ch­er would be re-elect­ed any­way all added to dis­cus­sions on the ratio­nale behind the office of the pres­i­dent and con­tributed to a very low vot­er turnout (54 per­cent). Heinz Fis­ch­er and Bar­bara Rosenkranz respec­tive­ly won 79.33 per­cent and 15.24 per­cent of the vote, while Rudolf Gehring cap­tured 5.43 percent.

Apart from the issues raised in the ques­tion­naire and the above­men­tioned pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, the dis­rup­tions in the air traf­fic caused by the erup­tion of the Eyjaf­jal­la­jökull Vol­cano in Ice­land, as well as the explo­sion of an off­shore oil plat­form in the Gulf of Mex­i­co caus­ing the spilling of mil­lions of tons of oil into the sea were also very salient in the report­ing period.

    Footnotes

  • 1Der Stan­dard, 3 March 2010; AustrianTimes.at: Rosenkranz ‘con­demns Nazi crimes’, 8 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.austriantimes.at/news/General_News/2010–03-08/21366/Rosenkranz_%27condemns_Nazi_crimes%27 (last access: 22 May 2010).
  • 2Der Stan­dard, 29 March 2010.

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.